(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you have not yet seen the Season 5 premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” entitled “No Sanctuary.”)
After a season premiere like this, it’s easy to see why AMC’s live talk show “Talking Dead” is such a big hit. Chris Hardwick gets to sit down live with creators and the cast to talk about what just blew his mind, and this is one of those premieres. While it confirmed some theories, it also blew expectations out of the water.
People anticipating a long stand-off between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Gareth (Andrew J. West) were left with their mouths hanging agape when the entire Terminus conflict was resolved in one single hour-long episode, with only a few threads left dangling — like the fate of Gareth.
Is this really “The Walking Dead?” It took an entire season to meet the Greenes at the farm and then get on the road again. It took more than an entire season to deal with the Governor (David Morrissey).
I imagine showrunner Scott Gimple sitting down for a casual lunch with
Something to the effect of plotting your show like it’s a runaway freight train that’s about to derail at any moment, packing so many WTF moments in each episode, viewers will have to pause it just to catch a breath. “The Walking Dead” has never moved so fast.
With so much happening, some characters didn’t get much of a chance to do anything, save run around after Rick. In fact, the bulk of the cast spent the hour still trapped in the boxcar listening to Eugene (Josh McDermitt) use archaic phrasing as he revealed that he worked on the Human Genome Project.
Only Rick, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Bob (Lawrence Gilliard) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) were released so that they could have their throats slit and be bled out. It certainly looks like the cannibalism theories were true, though it wasn’t explicitly said. The theorem was more show than tell, with the gang coming upon a butcher shop with a dangling human torso to suggest what was being done with the bodies after they were killed. Plus, why bleed out a body if all you care about is killing it?
Ultimately, though, this was a two-person show as the heroes of “The Walking Dead” each stepped up and did what they do best. And no, one of those people was not Daryl Dixon. Instead, it was Carol (Melissa McBride), who has proven she is every bit the hero Rick is. Sure, both of them seem a bit unhinged and may be just as dangerous as they are heroic, but that’s what makes them effective leaders in this hellhole they call the world.
Without Carol’s ingenious efforts outside of Terminus, Rick would have never seized a momentary distraction — by which I mean Carol’s massive and very awesome zombie-filled explosion — to gain the upper hand and dispatch his captors.
That he let them “turn” rather than kill them outright showed two very important things: just how much disdain he had for the way these people treated the living, and just how little of a threat the walkers are to him and his at this point. Terminus was overrun with walkers, and yet Rick and his people never seemed like they saw that as a problem. This they’re familiar with, and as long as they’re careful it’s just not that big of a deal anymore.
It’s an interesting direction for the show in its fifth season, and one that makes sense. Carol and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) shared the diminished concern about the walkers as well. I guess the point of this is to establish that the walkers are like dangerous animals. So long as you understand them and how to deal with them, they’re not a problem. It’s living people that are unpredictable and thus the real danger.
We got a glimpse of that in a scene between Tyreese and one of Terminus’ citizens, working on the outskirts of town. Captured by Carol and Tyreese, he couldn’t believe they were keeping him alive. It was a humanity and a weakness he couldn’t fathom anymore. He then revealed that he vaguely recollected Sundays with church and football, but only barely.
He was willing to kill a baby, and would have killed Tyreese and Carol without a second thought. His words were backed up by the casual slaughter of helpless innocents back in Terminus, coming just short — twice! — of killing poor Glenn. Was it manipulative? Sure, but it’s a horror show that’s proven it’s willing to kill main characters, so it may be more of a surprise that Glenn wasn’t bashed in the head with a bat and then throat-slit.
Tyreese once again proved how awesome he can be when we can’t see him, as he was forced outside the shack he and Carol put the Terminus outlier in when he threatened to kill the baby. Once again, and with great gusto, he dispatched a small herd of walkers single-handedly before coming back in and finally doing what needed to be done against the outlier.
That he killed the man just as the man said he should raises an interesting question about humanity in this post-humanity world. Is it possible to be kind and decent and not kill if there are people who are willing to reach a level of casual depravity we can scarcely fathom. The people of Terminus said that the sanctuary was at one time real, until all-too-human monsters came in and took it from them. So they fought back and decided the only way to win was to become as monstrous as those they’d defeated.
So is that the only way? Can Rick’s band of survivors, who have plenty of blood on their hands, hold on to their humanity? Carol has the blood of a somewhat-innocent child on her hands, regardless that the child turned out to be a sociopath. She also killed two innocent people in a failed attempt to stop an outbreak, and Rick has killed for less reason than that.
They’re willing to play God for what they see as the greater good, but is that really any better? So long as their greater good lines up with decency and taking care of the group, sure. But whose to say it will stay that way?
“The Walking Dead” is heading into interesting territory, and after that premiere, it’s got a clean slate to do it with.
AMC’s “The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET.